Guy Benson

A hard right jab to the jaw from Team Santorum:
 


This no-frills spot is pretty effective.  It draws the viewer in with the plain white text on a black screen, packs in a large amount of information, and lasts just short enough to hold one's attention throughout.  It also comes after Romney's right flank, where he's most vulnerable, and sows doubts about his reliability as a conservative.  The former governor has repeatedly explained his change of heart on abortion, and prominent pro-lifers in Massachusetts have vouched for his record on the issue -- but it's fair for Santorum to remind conservatives that his top opponent is prone to policy reversals based on political expediency.  The earmarks hit is interesting, considering that Santorum spent several minutes bumbling through a full-throated defense of the practice in last night's debate.  Then again, Romney has exploited the issue to ding both Santorum and Gingrich, relying on the "I just asked for the money, they appropriated it!" excuse to skate by.  In any case, the Santorum campaign has some money to play with -- the candidate revealed that he's taken in more than $6 million just this month.  He needs every penny.  Even though Team Romney is running into some cash flow issues of its own (Phil Klein thinks self-funding is inevitable at this point), their friendly SuperPAC is strafing Santorum with this air campaign:
 


As I've mentioned in previous dispatches, this message is now being supplemented in Michigan by a Ron Paul ad calling Santorum a "fake," a charge from which Paul refused to back down last night:
 


As I wrote in my debate recap, Santorum did his best to counter some of these points and justify his actions in Arizona.  Some of his individual answers weren't too bad on the merits, but in the aggregate, his defensiveness and in-the-weeds, process-heavy answers probably didn't deflect the blows as much as he'd have liked.  Gallup's latest numbers -- gathered pre-debate -- show Santorum's national lead slipping slightly to eight points.  Both Romney and Santorum are very competitive with President Obama in hypothetical matchups: Romney leads by four, Santorum trails by a statistically-insignificant single point:
 


UPDATE - The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List is up with a six-figure ad buy supporting Santorum (whom they've formally endorsed) in Michigan.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography